A few days ago, a small number of Los Angeles clergy were invited to listen to Natan Sharansky present his compromise plan for the Kotel. (I hope to write more about that later.) Before going (and I was the only Orthodox representative who showed up), I conferred about strategy with others who had attended similar meetings elsewhere. Whatever I planned to say was quickly negated by an emotional presentation by the outgoing head of the LA Board of Rabbis, who spoke of her own experience facing the hooligans last Rosh Chodesh. Rabbi HaLevy came over to me at the conclusion of the program, and said that she had something she wished to share. “In the melee, the doors of the bus I was supposed to leave on closed in front of me, leaving me there scared and vulnerable. A haredi woman sensed my feelings, and came over to me, telling me that those who had acted violently in no manner or from represented the women who had gathered to pray. ‘This is not the way we teach our children to act,’ she said.”
The explanation of a solitary, anonymous woman did not quite erase all the negativity of her experience, but it certainly reframed the experience of a Women of the Wall sympathizer, so that she did not see it as reflecting upon the conduct of authentic Torah Jews.
We distance ourselves from the misbehavior of the extremists, telling everyone that they act as individuals, not as a reflection of the community. We should keep in mind a corrolary to this. The black marks left by irresponsible lone-wolves can sometimes be undone by responsible lone-angels.